Ever wonder what your personality is like?

Psychologists have long wondered that too. For decades now have offered a bewildering array of theories, research, and tests that purport to measure this thing we call “personality.”

Enter “the Big Five” personality dimensions. Rather than present personality from a particular psychological theoretical perspective, the Big Five personality traits were derived from how people use everyday words to describe themselves and others.

And now we have a simple 50-question personality test you can use here on Psych Central to determine your rating along these 5 traits. It takes most people about 5 to 7 minutes to complete, and as with all the quizzes and tests here on Psych Central, provides instant (and always free!) results.

The “Big” in the Big Five refer to the broadness of the traits this test measures. These are not detailed components of your personality, but rather the broad brushstrokes that go to make up what psychologists believe is an important core of who you are.

What are the five traits and what do they measure broadly?

  • Extraversion – Energy, enthusiasm, socialable
  • Agreeableness – Altruism, helping others, affection, friendliness
  • Conscientiousness – Control, will, constraint, dependability
  • Neuroticism – Negative emotions, nervousness
  • Openness to Experience – Originality, culture, open-minded, intellect

The history of the Big Five is interesting, in that it’s derived from Raymond Cattell’s ground-breaking research into personality traits.

Cattell is one of the original personality psychologists, who used a mix of literature review and original research in the 1940s to whittle an initial list of 4,500 personality traits down to a more manageable 35 variables. This list of 35 was later reduced down further to just 12 personality factors after more analysis. These 12 morphed into 16 and eventually became the 16 Personality Factors (16PF) questionnaire.

Ironically, Cattell’s research was likely a bit faulty, as more modern reanalysis of his data suggest that maybe those 16 personality factors weren’t the right ones:

Cattell also claimed that his factors showed excellent correspondence across methods, such as self-reports, ratings by others, and objective tests; however, these claims have not gone unquestioned (e.g., Becker, 1960; Nowakowska, 1973).

Moreover, reanalyses of Cattell’s own correlation matrices by others have not confirmed the number and nature of the factors he proposed (e.g., Tupes & Christal, 1961; reprinted 1992). Digman and Takemoto-Chock (1981) concluded that Cattell’s “original model, based on the unfortunate clerical errors noted here, cannot have been correct” (p. 168) (John & Srivastava, 1999).

Ah well. Despite these concerns (which, one would think, have since been addressed, but I couldn’t say), the 16PF is still a widely used and accepted psychological instrument, sold commercially.

Back to the Big Five… How did we get to just five global personality traits?

To update the Allport and Odbert list and to rectify the imperfections of Cattell’s reduction steps, Norman (1967) compiled an exhaustive list of personality descriptive terms, which he sorted into 75 semantic categories. Goldberg (1990; see also 1981, 1982) used this list to clarify the nature and composition of these broad factors and to test their stability and generalizability across methodological variations and data sources.

Using Norman’s (1967) listing, Goldberg (1990) constructed an inventory of 1,710 trait adjectives that participants could use to rate their own personality. He then scored Norman’s semantic categories as scales and factor analyzed their intercorrelations in the self-rating data.

The first five factors represented the Big Five and replicated across a variety of different methods of factor extraction and rotation. (John & Srivastava, 1999).

Our personality test is a simple derivation of the Big Five based upon the IPIP 10-item scale, adapted (naturally!) for online use and instant scoring.

Take the Psych Central Personality Test now and learn something new about yourself!


International Personality Item Pool (IPIP): A Scientific Collaboratory for the Development of Advanced Measures of Personality Traits and Other Individual Differences (http://ipip.ori.org/).

John, O.P. & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement and theoretical perspectives. In Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.